Pressure mounts on channel 3 to drop news host after 13-year jail term.
THE CRIMINAL Court yesterday handed down guilty verdicts to all defendants in the Rai-Som bribery and embezzlement scandal, including famous TV news host Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, who was given 13 years and four months in prison.
After the verdict, pressure is growing on Channel 3 television station, as media watchdogs have said Sorrayuth should not continue in his role as a news host.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)’s subpanel regulating TV programming and scheduling will today discuss Sorrayuth’s case to determine if he should be allowed on screen, a source said. Although Rai-Som was not directly governed by the NBTC, Channel 3 operator Bangkok Entertainment Co Ltd needed to show its responsibility in this regard, as the TV station was now under the authority’s licence-based regime.
Thepchai Yong said yesterday in his capacity as president of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association: “If we want government agencies, civil servants and politicians to have good standards, media should demonstrate good standards too.” He said Sorrayuth should take responsibility for the offences and step down.
Sorrayuth, the founder of Rai-Som Co Ltd, has long been a popular host of the morning news show “Rueang Lao Chao Nee”. He has also appeared in two other news programmes; all of them are broadcast on Channel 3.
Rai-Som, Sorrayuth and one of his former staffers, Montha Thiradet, were convicted of wrongdoing related to the payment of more than Bt600,000 to Pitchapa Iamsa-ard, who was then an employee of MCOT, between 2005 and 2006.
Pitchapa, a defendant in the same case, did not report to MCOT additional TV commercials that Rai-Som aired during its popular TV programme “Kui Khui Khao” on Channel 9. As a result, Rai-Som received additional advertising revenue that was not shared with MCOT, resulting in damages of more than Bt138 million.
The Criminal Court gave Pitchapa a 20-year jail term in addition to sentencing Sorrayuth and Montha to 13 years and four months each. Rai-Som was ordered to pay an Bt80,000 fine.
All defendants denied wrongdoing and are now free on bail of Bt2 million each. The court granted the bail on condition that the defendants report themselves to the court every 30 days and cannot leave the country without permission.
Secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, Mana Mitmongkhon, said that if an actor or singer engaged in scandalous behaviour, he or she should be suspended from duty.
“Suspension is also imminent as soon as holders of political office are convicted by the courts,” he said.
He said society would soon find out if further action would be taken against Sorrayuth. “It’s a matter of conscience and social responsibility.”
Manop Thip-osod, vice president of the Thai Journalists Association, said Sorrayuth should review his role in the wake of the guilty verdict.
“Media are expected to fight against injustices,” he said.
Sorrayuth did not appear on Channel 3’s evening news show yesterday. Station executives convened an urgent meeting at 3pm to discuss how to proceed in the wake of the much-publicised case. They were expected to make a statement soon.
Pakdee Pothisiri, a former member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said the verdict in the Rai-Som case set a good precedent for other cases. “It reflects that if a case involves corruption, the punishment will be harsh,” he said.
Born in 1966, Sorrayuth graduated from Bangkok University’s faculty of communication arts with first-class honours. He started his career as a reporter at The Nation. In 1997, he was promoted to the post of news editor and assigned to host news-commentary TV programmes produced by the Nation Multimedia Group (NMG).
At the time he decided to leave the NMG, he was The Nation’s deputy managing editor. At the peak of his career, he won awards including a Golden Television Award in 2012.